A Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Being alive but not living.

Living but not being alive.



In the dark, I can feel you in my sleep,
In your arms I feel you breathe into me;
Forever hold this heart that I will give to you,
Forever I will live for you!

I'm awake! I'm alive!

Now I know what I believe inside!
Now! It's my time!
I’ll do what I want, ‘cause this is my life!

Skillet, Awake and Alive


**Guest post by Wench Olga Daniels

There are good books and books that are not your thing. Sometimes, you can find amazing books and re-read them so many times and yet still feel like the first time every time you do. 

And then comes a day when you read THE BOOK that makes everything you’ve read before it insignificant. I read a book just like that. 

This guest post was intended to be a review, but I think this is just me trying to put back together the pieces this book tore me to. Believe me when I tell you I had cried the whole time it took me to write it. 
 
They say Me Before You is controversial because of the ethical and moral questions it arises. Maybe it is, although I do believe one must be able to choose what he/she can’t live without. And at what price. What I say is that this is one of the greatest love stories. Remember this at all costs. 

This book is a love story. 

This book is real. Just as real as life is. This is a story about a man who had everything and lost it all in one rainy London day. It’s about a small-town girl who had to make choices that never allowed her to spread her wings. This is a story about life, happiness, choices and love. It’s a story about the right to die



Usually I love to color my posts by papering them with funny gifs and bold collages, but there is nothing colorful nor funny about this book. And even though it’s a love story, Me Before You is most definitely not a Hollywood-ish one. Nor is it your garden-variety romance.

Me Before You was written without a publishing contract at first, and the writer wasn’t convinced it would touch the shelves of a bookstore one day because of the controversial topic, you see. Jojo Moyes said it was “something I needed to write. But doing it just for myself was strangely liberating.” That’s exactly why you are now reading this post. I finished reading the book at 2 AM one night. I couldn’t do anything without thinking about it. It’s been haunting me and it will for the rest of my life. I dreamed about this book. I saw it everywhere I went, every time I looked out of the window of my car. I needed half an hour to rid myself of all the tears streaming down my face and crashing against my Kindle. That was the moment I knew I had to tell everyone about the book that changed me. The book that changed everything.


Will Traynor has everything. He is an attractive man in his early thirties. He is wealthy, successful and adventurous. He lives big, has a sexy, beautiful girlfriend, a great job and rides a motorcycle. He is determined to take everything life has to offer: from bungee jumping, skiing and scuba diving to lots and lots of sex.

Or he used to…

For all of Will’s adventurous life what cuts off all of his dreams and previous life and person is an accident while trying to catch a cab.

“Motorbike accident. Not mine. I was an innocent pedestrian.”
“I thought it would be skiing or bungee jumping or something.”
“Everyone does. God’s little joke. I was crossing the road outside my home. Not this place,” he said. “My London home.”

That was the accident that left Will a C5/6 quadriplegic. That means nothing works below his upper chest. Nothing at all. He is stuck in a wheelchair and there is nothing he wishes more than to end it all.


“I loved my life, Clark. Really loved it. I loved my job, my travels, the things I was. I loved being a physical person. I liked riding my motorbike, hurling myself off buildings. I liked crushing people in business deals. I liked having sex. Lots of sex. I led a big life.” His voice had lifted now. “I am not designed to exist in this thing – and yet for all intents and purposes it is now the thing that defines me. It is the only thing that defines me.” […]
“I need it to end here. No more chair. No more pneumonia. No more burning limbs. No more pain and tiredness and waking up every morning already wishing it was over.”


Louisa Clark is an ordinary twenty-six years old girl from a small town that lives in the shadows of Stortfold Castle and has a boyfriend she knows she might not love. She had to give up many things for her family to help them live a normal life. Never went to college and has recently lost her job. Everyone thinks her taste in clothes is exotic and that she is incapable of lying or hiding her feelings. She is not allowed by her circumstances to live freely. That is how Lou becomes Will’s care taker for a six month time period.

It is not easy, far from it. They fight and they disagree, Will barely talks to Lou and is mean to her. He doesn’t want his friends’ pity nor does he feel like there is anything at all left for him to live for.
Understandable, I would say.
They each came from such different worlds.
But as they get to know each other, as they go through their fears and hopes, they develop into different individuals, so irrevocably changed.
It’s actually funny how a suicidal person will be the one to teach Lou how to live big, how to push her barriers, how to spread her wings and search for new horizons.

Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. […] Just live well.
Just live.[…]
Knowing you still have possibilities is a luxury. Knowing I might have given them to you has alleviated something for me.

The story is told from Lou’s point of view, but near the end we get into the heads of another three characters. Which should have been annoying. But wasn’t. You could see so much more through their eyes, things Lou probably refused to see, or simply was too busy looking in the other direction to be aware of them.

From the very beginning, right after I met the main characters I set this path in my head of how I thought the book would unfold. And then I found myself reading the Epilogue and thinking that that was so not what I had in mind! And you know what? That was exactly what set this story apart from the rest. That was what made it unforgettable, unique.

This book is what I call a soul-shredder. I can’t remember crying so much over a book in my life.
It wasn’t as if I had been an insensible idiot, oblivious of the cruel fact that there are thousands upon thousands of people suffering every day and this book opened my eyes. No. I just never happened to read anything so vivid and deep. The horrible thing is that it’s not just about being stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of your life and being dependent on other people for every single thing you need, it’s the battle against unimaginable pain and misery, infection, drugs and pneumonia. And not being able to end it if you feel like this is too high a price for living being alive.
This book made me question everything I knew about myself. It shattered me so profusely.

"You know what? Nobody wants to hear that stuff. Nobody wants to know how it feels to know you will never have sex again, never eat food you've made with your hands again, never hold your own child. Nobody wants to know that sometimes I feel so claustrophobic, being in this chair, I just want to scream like a madman at the thought of spending another day in it."

How stupid, selfishly oblivious and ignorant this book made me feel! How small and insignificant! How dare I think of my life as hard?! How could I take for granted trivial little things in life? Yet there are people who aren’t even able to scratch their neck if it itches, or to hold their dear one’s hand walking in a park. It must be hell to be entirely dependent on other people for everything you need. Every thing.

There are times when I’m in a car and a quote from Me Before You would pop up inside my head and gnaw at me with invisible claws. The next thing I know I’m looking out of the window to hide the tears that wouldn’t stop. And to look at the sky with different eyes. God, never before had the sky been more beautiful.
This story also made me reconsider the meaning and the ways of Happily-Ever-Afters.

 “I’m not asking you to psychoanalyse yourself. I’m just asking, what do you want? Get married? Pop out some ankle biters? Dream career? Travel the world?”

And it taught me that there are so many different kinds of HEA. It’s not always getting married, having kids and getting a good job. In this case it’s so much more. It’s getting to live your loved one’s life for yourself and for him. To take everything there is about him with you anywhere you went.

“Hey, Clark,” he said. “Tell me something good.”
I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. And I told him of the adventures they had, the places they had gone, and the things I had seen that I had never expected to. I conjured for him electric skies and iridescent seas and evenings full of laughter and silly jokes. I drew a world for him, a world far from a Swiss industrial estate, a world in which he was still somehow the person he had wanted to be. I drew the world he had created for me, full of wonder and possibility.

I think everyone should read this book. It makes life look so much rosier in a way. Usually I reread my favorite books. Many many times. And even though I loved this book and it is my favorite, I don’t know if I can go through it again. I don’t know if I am strong enough.

What would you do if you had a loved person stuck in a chair and thinking there is absolutely nothing to live for? Would you help them commit suicide? Would you try to change their mind even though there is no cure for their condition? Did you know there is a clinic in Switzerland that helps those with terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die assisted? What do you think about it? Is that really a selfish and weak thing to do?

I personally think that if you don’t have enough money to pay the price to live, it should at least be your choice whether to pay it or not.

Comments

  1. Wow I loved your review Olga. I've promptly added this to my TBR. It sounds very powerful and soul searching.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Angela. Please read it. Everyone needs to read this book. Everyone.

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  2. Olga you and I have had amazing conversations about this book. I'm so glad you were able to write this wonderful piece to share it with the world!

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  3. Olga, what a powerful review! Added it to my TBR, unfortunately I know too much about this kind of situation. Young people, just at the brink of adult life, hopes and expectations, sitting in a wheelchair, can't lift a finger by themselves. God, I can write a book about it and still know that it's nothing compares to these people reality. Whatever you feel, it is not possible to put yourself in their place, it is just the way we are build, in order to go on. Yes it changes the way you look at life, all the petty staff we thought was so important look small and insignificant. Be happy with what you have, as long as you can have it. Love.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Naomi.
      Yes, that is exactly what it taught me, that if we stop for a minute and think about it life is full of possibilities, wonder and joy, and if we tried and just left aside our petty complaints about trivial things, we would actually see it. It's the little things in life, things I've taken for granted, or my silly "life problems" that seem downright humorous right now.

      This is the kind of book that stays with your forever.

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